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Summary "Action Theory" as it is used here is the sub-area in the philosophy of action/agency that is concerned chiefly with the foundations of the broader sub-discipline. Central problems include the nature and scope of intentional action and agency, the explanation of action, and our knowledge of our actions. Most of the other problems that fall within the scope of this category at PhilPapers are closely related to such foundational questions.
Key works [BROKEN REFERENCE: DORRAC-2w]#DORRAC-2Perhaps the two most influential works that have shaped the current state of action theory are Anscombe 1957 and Davidson 1963. Davidson's essay is the locus classicus for the causal theory of action and for causalism about reason-explanations of actions. Anscombe's book has been influential among proponents of non-causal theories of action and reason-explanation. For a classic defense of the agent-causal perspective, see Chisholm 1966. And for a volitionist perspective, see McCann 1974. Some collections of essays that may help readers get a sense of the major debates in action theory today include Mele 1997, Aguilar & Buckareff 2010, Aguilar & Buckareff 2009, and D'Oro & Sandis 2013.
Introductions The following are good places to start to for those looking for guides to the current state of the art in action theory. Mele 2005 Mele 1992 Wilson 2008
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  1. Forrest E. Baird (1992). Human Thought and Action. Upa.
    A book of readings in Western intellectual history focusing on the role of reason in human action. Contents:^ Plato: Myth of the Cave; Plato: ^IThe Four Virtues; Aristotle: Knowledge of Causes; Aristotle: The Types of Governments; Epicurus: Epicureanism; Epictetus: Stoicism; St. Augustine: The Platonist; St. Augustine: The Nature of Sources of Evil; St. Thomas Aquinas: The Four Laws; St. Thomas Aquinas: The Nature of the Soul; Pico: The Oration on the Dignity of Man; John Calvin: Reason, Sin and Illumination; St. (...)
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  2. S. J. Boey (2013). De dubbele oorspronkelijkheid Van blondels “action”. Bijdragen 24 (2):130-153.
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  3. Christoph Lumer, Practical Arguments for Prudential Justifications of Actions.
    Practical arguments for actions are arguments which, besides their epistemic function, shall motivate an addressee to execute the justified action. First, a strategy is developed how this motivational and other requirements can be met. Part of this strategy is to identify a thesis for which holds that believing it motivates in the required manner. Second, relying on empirical decision theory, such a thesis is identified. Finally, precise validity criteria for the respective arguments are developed.
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  4. Andres Luure (2009). Action in Signs. Sign Systems Studies 37 (1-2):270-280.
    The present article discusses sign typology from the perspective of action which is conceived as having a sextet structure. The relation between means and purpose in action is analogous to the relation between sign and meaning. The greater the degree in which the action has purpose, the less tool-like the action is.Peirce’s trichotomies correspond to a fragment of the sextet structure.
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  5. B. M. M. (1969). The Logic of Decision and Action. [REVIEW] Review of Metaphysics 23 (1):143-144.
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  6. M. M. (1982). Theory of Action. Review of Metaphysics 35 (4):864-865.
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  7. S. Maasen, W. Prinz & G. Roth (2003). The Explanatory Role of Consciousness in Action. In Sabine Maasen, Wolfgang Prinz & Gerhard Roth (eds.), Voluntary Action: Brains, Minds, and Sociality. Oxford University Press 188--201.
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  8. Matthew D. MacKenzie (2001). The Five Factors of Action and the Decentring of Agency in the Bhagavad Gtā. Asian Philosophy 11 (3):141 – 150.
    I will here analyse the five factors of action given in the Bhagavad Gtā, paying specific attention to the implications of this account for the Gtā's moral and soteriological psychologies. I argue that the Gtā's account of action constitutes a decentring of agency which paves the way for liberation. Further, while the ethics and moral psychology of the Gtā are often seen as similar to Kant's, I will argue that the decentring of agency in the Gtā places the liberated person (...)
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  9. Ruth Chimacoff Macklin (1968). Theory of Action. Dissertation, Case Western Reserve University
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  10. J. Macmurray, A. C. Ewing & O. S. Franks (1938). What Is Action? Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 17:69-120.
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  11. Graeme MacQueen (2008). WhatValues Underlie Our Actions? In Neil Arya & Joanna Santa Barbara (eds.), Peace Through Health: How Health Professionals Can Work for a Less Violent World. Kumarian Press 1075.
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  12. V. Mangalvedkar (1919). The Philosophy of Action of Lok. B.G. Tilak's Githarahasya. Indian Literature Publishers.
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  13. J. S. Mann, Pasco Daphne & Bernard Bosanquet (1889). Symposium: What Takes Place in Voluntary Action? Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 1 (2):61 - 76.
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  14. André Marc (1951). Being and Action. Modern Schoolman 28 (3):175-190.
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  15. Eric Marcus (2010). Life and Action. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 88 (4):749-751.
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  16. Chirstopher Martin (1994). Libertad y Revocabilidad. Anuario Filosófico 27 (3):991-1006.
    The article treat with the voluntary action (in which we can include the free human action) and non voluntary causality. The author wants give some aclarations over the actual controversy, from Aquinas thought.
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  17. Jane R. Martin (1972). Basic Actions and Simple Actions. American Philosophical Quarterly 9 (1):59 - 68.
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  18. Michael Martin (1978). Volitions and Actions. Canadian Journal of Philosophy 8 (1):187 - 190.
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  19. Francesca Masi (2007). Swerves and Voluntary Actions. Rhizai. A Journal for Ancient Philosophy and Science 2:311-328.
    Critical notice of Tim O’ Keefe, <span class='Hi'>Epicurus</span> on Freedom, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2005.
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  20. Hugh J. McCann (2013). Action. In Hugh LaFollette (ed.), The International Encyclopedia of Ethics. Wiley-Blackwell
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  21. Mary A. Mccloskey (1979). THALBERG, IRVING "Perception, Emotion and Action". [REVIEW] Philosophy 54:264.
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  22. John Mcdowell (2013). Zum Verhältnis von Rezeptivem Und Praktischem Wissen. Deutsche Zeitschrift für Philosophie 61 (3):387-401.
    According to G. E. M. Anscombe, practical knowledge, an agent’s knowledge of what she is intentionally doing, is not contemplative or speculative; it does not owe its being knowledge to its being derived from what it knows. She argues for this on the ground that practical knowledge can be one of “two knowledges of the same thing”, where the other of the two is speculative. If we try to conceive practical knowledge as speculative, we fall into a hopeless picture in (...)
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  23. John McDowell (2011). Pragmatism and Intention-in-Action. In Rosa M. Calcaterra (ed.), New Perspectives on Pragmatism and Analytic Philosophy. Editions Rodopi
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  24. John Mcdowell (2011). “Some Remarks On Intention In Action”. Studies in Social Justice:1-18.
    I suggest that intentions for the future become intentions in action when the time for acting comes. The image of intentions as a kind of continuant helpfully accommodates progress in an action; a persisting intention in action changes its shape in respect of how much of what is intended lies behind it and how much is still in prospect. Specific motor intentions in the course of, for instance, crossing a street are shapes successively taken by a persisting intention in action. (...)
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  25. R. Mcinerny (1991). The Structure of Human Action. Daimon: Revista de Filosofia 3:15.
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  26. Alison G. Mcintyre (1985). Omissions and Other Acts. Dissertation, Princeton University
    Philosophical discussion of the topic of intentional agency has often focused on questions about the nature of the events which are intentional actions. This event-oriented approach cannot yield an adequate account of human agency because it cannot accommodate negative acts, or acts of omission. Agents may act intentionally by omitting to act, but many such acts of omission cannot be identified with any event consisting of a bodily movement. This dissertation is an attempt to develop an account of agency which (...)
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  27. Andrew Joseph McKinlay, Creative Agency.
    This thesis is about the agency involved with creativity. I am concerned particularly with the process of Insight Based Problem Solving (IBPS). IBPS is a problem solving process that is associated with a particular phenomenal experience, of sudden enlightenment, where new content arrives when the individual problem solver is not intentionally considering the problem at hand. The moment of insight is intuitively involuntary and as I argue for in chapter 1, is not successfully incorporated into any current account of creative (...)
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  28. R. N. McLaughlin (1967). Human Action. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 45 (2):141 – 158.
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  29. Robert N. McLaughlin (2000). Intentions and Causes, Actions and Right Actions. Ratio 13 (1):54–68.
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  30. Jeff McMahon (2008). Collective Crime and Collective Punishment. Criminal Justice Ethics 27 (1):4-12.
    George Fletcher emerges in his writing, as in his life, as a colorful and highly individual figure. The last thing one expects of him is the surrender of individual identity to an anonymous submersion in the collective. Yet doctrinally he is a collectivist. In his recent writings, he has been seeking to collectivize just about everything: action, responsibility, guilt, liability, self-defense, criminal punishment, international criminal law, action in war, war crimes, and so on.
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  31. Alfred R. Mele (1984). Michael A. Simon: "Understanding Human Action". [REVIEW] The Thomist 48 (1):121.
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  32. Wendy Messenger (2009). Managing Multi-Agency Working. In Michael Reed & Natalie Canning (eds.), Reflective Practice in the Early Years. Sage 126.
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  33. Denise Meyerson (1994). When Are My Actions Due to Me? Analysis 54 (3):171 - 174.
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  34. Patricia G. Milanich (1984). Allowing, Refraining, and Failing: The Structure of Omissions. [REVIEW] Philosophical Studies 45 (1):57 - 67.
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  35. Fred D. Miller Jr (1975). Actions and Results. Philosophical Quarterly 25 (101):350-354.
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  36. Arthur R. Miller (1981). Ii. Intentions and Conditions of Satisfaction. Inquiry 24 (1):115 – 121.
    This paper discusses a problem arising from the way in which John Searle marks the distinction between intentional and unintentional action (Inquiry, Vol. 22, pp. 253?80), namely, that of adequately distinguishing those events which we regard as unintentional actions on the part of an agent from those other events occasioned by or brought about as a result of his action which we (correctly) do not countenance as actions of any sort ? unintentional or otherwise. Searle's attempt to distinguish them in (...)
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  37. Christian Miller (2009). Divine Will Theory: Intentions or Desires? In Jonathan L. Kvanvig (ed.), Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Religion: Volume 2. OUP Oxford
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  38. Theodore Mischel (1971). Human Action. Conceptual and Empirical Issues. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 31 (4):606-608.
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  39. Walter Mischel (1996). From Good Intentions to Willpower. In P. Gollwitzer & John A. Bargh (eds.), The Psychology of Action: Linking Cognition and Motivation to Behavior. Guilford 9--197.
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  40. Dieter Misgeld (1980). Ultimate Self-Responsibility, Practical Reasoning, and Practical Action: Habermas, Husserl, and Ethnomethodology on Discourse and Action. [REVIEW] Human Studies 3 (1):255 - 278.
    A particular notion of reason has pervaded studies of practical action throughout the whole tradition of western philosophy up to Wittgenstein and Heidegger. This notion has been centrally located in contexts other than the specific study of practical action itself.This essay examines the relation of reason and practical action by reviewing Habermas' and Husserl's theories of the relation between discourse and action (I), and then proposing Garfinkel's ethnomethodological studies of practical action as an alternative to Husserl's and Habermas' preoccupation with (...)
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  41. James S. Morgan (1982). Actions. Philosophical Studies 29:345-348.
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  42. Adam Morton (2015). Shared Agency: A Planning Theory of Acting Together. Philosophical Quarterly 65 (260):582-585.
    I praise Bratman's minimal account of shared agency, while expressing some doubts about the explanatory force of his central concepts and some puzzlement about what he means by norms.
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  43. John Mullarkey, Almost Nothing Happening: An Essay on Action and Event.
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  44. Frank Wright Neely (1967). The Metaphysics of Action. Dissertation, Yale University
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  45. Anne Newstead (2009). Interpreting Anscombe's Intention §32FF. Journal of Philosophical Research 34:157-176.
    G. E. M. Anscombe’s view that agents know what they are doing “without observation” has been met with skepticism and the charge of confusion and falsehood. Simultaneously, some commentators think that Anscombe has captured an important truth about the first-personal character of an agent’s awareness of her actions. This paper attempts an explanation and vindication of Anscombe’s view. The key to the vindication lies in focusing on the role of practical knowledge in an agent’s knowledge of her actions. Few commentators, (...)
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  46. Lowell Nissen (1983). Wright on Teleological Descriptions of Goal-Directed Behavior. Philosophy of Science 50 (1):151-158.
    Larry Wright's analysis of teleological description of goal-directed behavior, though ingenious and insightful, errs in the following ways: it incorrectly claims that intentional human action exhibits consequence-etiology, making it impossible, contrary to his claim, for reference to consequence-etiology to be metaphorically transmitted to teleological descriptions of nonhuman behavior; it does not remove the threat of reverse causation for nonhuman behavior; it assumes in the face of contrary evidence that reference to purpose drops out in metaphorical extension; and it cannot account (...)
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  47. Brian O'Shaughnessy (1991). Searle's Theory of Action. In Ernest LePore (ed.), John Searle and His Critics. Cambridge: Blackwell
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  48. Matthew B. O.’Brien & Robert C. Koons (2012). Objects of Intention. American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly 86 (4):655-703.
    The “New Natural Law” Theory (NNL) of Grisez, Finnis, Boyle, and their collaborators offers a distinctive account of intentional action, which underlies a moral theory that aims to justify many aspects of traditional morality and Catholic doctrine. In fact, we show that the NNL is committed to premises that entail the permissibility of many actions that are irreconcilable with traditional morality and Catholic doctrine, such as elective abortions. These consequences follow principally from the NNL’s planning theory of intention coupled with (...)
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  49. Hans Fredrick Oberdiek (1965). The Moral Relevance of Motives, Intentions, and Actions. Dissertation, The University of Wisconsin - Madison
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  50. Douglas Odegard (1988). Volition and Action. American Philosophical Quarterly 25 (2):141 - 151.
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